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Deeply Rooted Loretto Couple Plant a Legacy and Become Trees Ontario’s latest Green Leaders

Landowners credit the support of the Ontario government’s 50 Million Tree Program and local conservation authority

TORONTO, ON, March 19, 2013 –&shy

John Asher has a vision: he imagines how his grandchildren − Aidan, Oscar, Liam and Ashley −  will one day as adults recall the time each planted a tree on his property in Simcoe County. He pictures each saying: “I planted this tree with papa, that’s my tree.”

“Reforestation is a new beginning for this property,” notes John. This is the motivation for John and his wife Betty-Ann to undertake a large-scale tree planting project on their seventh generation south-central Ontario land. In 2011 they planted 10 acres, adding 19 more in 2012. An additional 14 acres (5.6 hectares) will be planted this spring with plans for a fourth planting in 2014.

Now the proud owners of 22,950 new trees, John and Betty-Ann have dutifully earned the title of Forests Ontario’s most recent Green Leaders – a recognition bestowed on those who have supported the not-for-profit’s mandate to increase forested landscape on private lands.

Following in her ancestors’ “land stewardship” footsteps – this property was passed down almost 200 years – Betty-Ann says they are now doing everything they can to keep the land looking as natural as possible. The hope is that it may someday even resemble the original growth that the homesteaders found.

“For us, forest regeneration is the best way to keep this land in the family for generations to come. It will be enjoyed as a recreational property,” explains John, a retired school principal, whose property now includes Norway spruce, red oak, white pine, European larch, black cherry, black walnut and hackberry seedlings.

Betty-Ann’s ancestors first took possession of the property in 1826 as a result of a Crown land grant. Interestingly, both her father and grandfather were actually born in the house they currently reside in, built in 1853. (Her maiden name, Kelly, is still etched on an old barn behind the home).

Today, three homes sit on the property – and three generations live on it – one of which is a new home being built for their daughter Elizabeth and her husband. The couple’s children, Oscar and Ashley, are the seventh generation to live on the farm.

Of course, cost is a factor landowners like the Ashers need to consider. However, once they heard about the government of Ontario’s 50 Million Tree Program (50MTP), the family’s decision to plant was an easy one.

“This program is a tremendous incentive for landowners,” says John, referring to 50MTP, which significantly reduces costs Ontario landowners face with extensive tree planting, thereby increasing the number of trees planted.

With the goal of planting 50 million trees by 2025, the 50MTP is administered by Forests Ontario, which works with local tree planting agencies, including regional conservation authorities and local stewardship councils, to coordinate funding and planting.

“I applaud stewards like the Ashers who recognize land use change and are proactively planting trees to leave behind a legacy for future generations,” noted Rob Keen, CEO of Trees Ontario. “We encourage other landowners to take advantage of the available subsidies through the 50 Million Tree Program to plant trees and restore forests on their land.”

“Planting large numbers of trees helps fight climate change, cleans the air, increases wildlife habitat, and prevents flooding,” said David Orazietti, Ontario Minister of Natural Resources. “Today we recognize the Ashers for their outstanding contribution to enhancing forest cover and their commitment to preserving Ontario’s biodiversity.”

Betty-Ann stresses the importance of the partnership with the planting agencies. It was this relationship, with Rick Grillmayer, Forestry Program Coordinator at the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority (NVCA), and the consistency and continuity of working together that “made it happen,” she says.

This plan first began to take root back in 2010 when the Ashers contacted NVCA with the idea of replanting. Rick says their timing was perfect. “It’s good to meet landowners at least one year ahead of time for a site of this size, then you need to update the plan each year so you can transition from plant to forest.”

With small seedlings now visibly scattered across the property, the Ashers are anxious for their third plant this spring.  “I like the sound, smell and serenity of the forest,” says John, “but I also like having an open view so with Rick’s assistance, we have planned for both at the same time.”

“Hopefully, our children and their spouses, and especially our four grandkids, will fondly remember all the cycling, skiing, dirt biking, swinging in hammocks, watching the wild turkeys, roasting hotdogs and eating wild black raspberries, and will do the same with their kids … all of this in a growing forest.”

Betty-Ann is pleased with the progress as well: “Our roots are very deep here, so I’m very happy it worked out.”

For more information about the 50 Million Tree Program and other tree planting programs, as well as local tree planting workshops, visit: http://www.forestsontario.ca/planting/programs/

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About 50 Million Tree Program (50MTP)

Trees Ontario is a partner in the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources’ 50 Million Tree Program, part of the United Nations Billion Tree Campaign. The United Nations’ goal is to plant one billion trees worldwide each year. Ontario is committed to help achieve this goal.

The goals of the program are to sequester carbon, enhance and diversify southern Ontario’s landscape, increase the capacity to withstand climate change, and increase wildlife habitat. The 50 Million Tree Program is designed to significantly reduce the costs to landowners of large-scale tree planting and thereby increase the number of trees planted across the province.